RGM Introducing – We Interview Amanda Ekery

What made you decide to start to become an artist?

I always enjoyed making things – crafts, songs, plans. Music was just the medium that I first learned and have developed into a career. Music is what I do but it’s not all that I am. 

Introduce us all to you and your musical history?

I first started playing piano when I was five, picked up the flute at 10, and started singing around age 11. I grew up listening to Willie’s Roadhouse (country music radio show), hearing mariachi bands at family parties, dancing the dubke (arabic dance) at family weddings, and collecting musical CDs. I’ve always loved a lot of different kinds of music that shows in my own original compositions which are sometimes part jazz, part country, part singer-songwriter, part free improvisations.

Whats your thoughts on the uk music scene?

The UK has so much cool music and a great jazz community. My friends Lou Paley and Nina Fine started a wonderful organization. Women in Jazz, in London which supports females through promotion, funding, and performance opportunities. The word jazz in the UK is also so broad which I appreciate as someone whose music is in often in the between spaces of genres. There are DJs, songwriters, and R&B influenced musicians all under the umbrella of jazz in the UK.

What support is out there for new artists in El Paso?

The El Paso music scene is small but close. Venues often close and new ones open, many musicians are also full time teachers/have other sources of income, but we all know each other and help each other. 

Who is inspiring you at the minute on the El Paso unsigned scene?

My friend Laurence Brown has always inspired me. He’s a drummer and a jack of all the trades – an expert in African drumming, south American music traditions, hip hop, and of course jazz. Laurence plays with a many different bands in El Paso and writes his own music as well. 

What useless party trick /talent do you have/? 

I really don’t, sorry. 

What was the most fun you have had on stage?

At the Panama Jazz Festival in 2018, I performed with Ran Blake who I idolized then studied with and am now friends with. Ran is a MacArthur Fellow winner and one-of-a-kind pianist who truly has a personal style. We performed some of his original music to a sold-out audience in Panama City and was really special. 

What was the worst experience on stage?

Well, as a woman you, unfortunately, tend to get vibed or put down at some gigs. I don’t often go to jam sessions, but one time when I went it felt like I was being quizzed, assessed (for my music and looks), and being asked to prove myself instead of just trying to just make good music. 

Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about? 

My dream gig would be singing background vocals/playing keys for Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, or Steely Dan. 

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? 

No, but I do have little superstitions. All of my albums come out on the 3rd of the month. My first album “Some Shorts Songs” was released 3/3 (the ideal 3 combo of course), my second “Keys With No Purpose” out on 11/3, and this one “Some (more) Short Songs” is out 12/3/21 – a beautiful combination of 3s and a palindrome. 

What advice would you give other artists starting out?

To do what you like and be patient. The music business world now is so different from even 10 years ago. If you do what you like, people who like your work will find you. 

If you had to describe your sound to an alien how would you describe them? 

Avant singer-songwriter, organized cacophony, and/or jazz pop.

I hear you have a new album brewing, what can you tell us about it?

My next album, Árabe, has been in the works for 5 years now. It’s about Syrian immigration to El Paso in the early 19th century but also about assimilation, identify, belonging, and love. It’s basically a love letter to my family and our history. My plan is to release it 3/3/2023 (another great 3/3 combo).

Talk me through the thought process of the album?

Some (more) Short Songs is a sequel to my debut album “Some Short Songs.” All the songs cohere around my study and compositional use of the Lydian Chromatic Concept, a music theory. The Lydian Chromatic Concept was created by George Russell in 1953 and is a theoretical concept focused on the relationship between harmonic motion and tonal weight. People like Miles Davis and Bill Evans used the Lydian Chromatic Concept in the legendary modal album “Kind of Blue” and I take it in a new direction pushing the harmonic and melodic possibilities the concept invites. 

Our original plan was to record the album in March 2020, but of course, that ended up not happening. During the pandemic I was able to write two new songs for the album, tracks 9 and 10, which are actually some of my favorite ones. We recorded everything in May 2021. 

What was the recording process like?

Great! I love recording. We rehearsed before we were in the studio and took some extra time to add background vocals, experiment and improvise some other background parts, and try songs a few different ways.

Why record an album? A lot of artists are going down the road of regular singles, just interested in your thoughts on committing to an album right now.?

This is a collection of songs that go together. They represent my personal composition style, a time period in which I wrote them, and also give the listener an experience. From beginning to end, we invite you into the first track in a dream like state and the last track ends sending the listener off in with a synth lullaby like track. 

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the album?

This is my third album and I tend to write music as a collection or body of work. With that in mind, the idea of an album or concept for the album is clearer when writing the individual tracks. 

Would you change anything now it’s finished?

Nope! I’m super proud of this music, extremely thankful to the band for bringing it into the world, and hope it finds the people who love it.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

Working on Árabe, finishing up writing the tracks for it, and wrote some essays about the history and story behind each song. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Thank you!